Ladies and gentlemen: It happened. Reports surfaced last week suggesting the Panthers could look to move on from Christian McCaffrey under a new coaching staff, and Carolina wasted little time finding a trade partner. The 49ers traded four picks (including two Day 2 selections) to secure arguably the best running back in football, giving Kyle Shanahan a shiny new toy to pair with the weapons San Francisco already had.
Let’s dig into this trade from a fantasy perspective and examine who’s a winner here and who stands to lose the most.
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- McCaffrey indubitably has more role uncertainty than he did with the Panthers, but San Francisco traded a huge haul of draft picks to acquire him. That kind of compensation essentially guarantees he’s going to be a workhorse once he gets acclimated.
- The primary worry for McCaffrey is whether his target volume will decrease within a run-heavy offense with more target competition. It’s a valid concern, but the 49ers could slightly increase their pass rate now that they have another weapon or just design targets for McCaffrey out of the backfield. With that being said, the expectation should be that McCaffrey’s targets may fall off slightly.
- Mostly, CMC’s upside is so much higher in the Bay Area simply because he’s on a competent offense now. It’s difficult to say this is a major value boon considering he was already RB4 on the season averaging 19.7 PPR points per game, but his value does increase slightly simply because the upside is so much higher than it was in Carolina now that he’s a bellcow back under one of the most creative offensive minds in the league.
- The chief issue for D.J. Moore is unchanged: He’s still stuck on arguably the worst passing offense in the league. However, McCaffrey’s departure opens up 23.9% of the Panthers’ targets. With Robbie Anderson out of the picture, Moore is going to get all the volume he can handle — if he remains with Carolina.
- The Panthers reportedly view Moore as a foundational piece they can build around, so it seems unlikely he’s traded at this point. Still, the CMC trade solidifies the notion that they are blowing it up, and it’s not completely out of the question that DJM is next. Moore’s value would skyrocket if he got traded to a WR-needy team, and the chances of that happening jumped slightly when McCaffrey got shipped off.
D’ONTA FOREMAN AND CHUBA HUBBARD
- Neither D’Onta Foreman nor Chuba Hubbard are viable fantasy starters right now. They will split work — likely Foreman on early downs with Hubbard handling passing work — on perhaps the worst offense in the NFL. However, both are worth rostering in hopes that one of them emerges as the every-down back. Foreman and Hubbard have to be winners because their path to volume is much clearer now, but expectations should be heavily managed.
- Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t on the fantasy radar in most leagues, but he does have another elite weapon to throw to now. That’s good news for fantasy gamers that have him in Superflex.
- Samuel may lose some targets to McCaffrey (especially since Kyle Shanahan may feel obligated to force-feed the player they just traded four picks for), but he’s still averaging a monstrous 26.3% target share this season. There’s room for that number to fall and for Deebo to still be a fantasy beast.
- The 49ers may also use Samuel less as a rusher now that they have a truly elite running back. We’ve seen them turn away from Deebo as a runner in recent weeks — he has exactly two carries in three consecutive games — with the emergence of Tevin Coleman as the RB2. Still, Deebo running less isn’t exactly a bad thing for his fantasy value, as it just means he can play a normal WR role (plus, they likely will still scheme him a couple of carries regardless).
- Like Deebo, Brandon Aiyuk will lose some targets with McCaffrey in town. He’s still going to get his as the clear WR2, but the most likely outcome is that his stock falls slightly.
- Same as Deebo and Aiyuk: Kittle’s target share — which has already been slightly underwhelming this year — figures to drop slightly with McCaffrey challenging for receiving volume.
ELIJAH MITCHELL AND JEFF WILSON
- Jeff Wilson may cling to the primary rushing role for one more week with McCaffrey needing time to get acclimated, but we fully expect CMC to be a three-down workhorse in this offense once he knows the playbook. Elijah Mitchell looks ready to return from injury within a couple of weeks, but he is now relegated to the breather-back role with contingent upside.